Life is a play named “Terrific.”

The play begins as a tragedy and ends as a farce. Terrific in the 19th century meant horrible/terrible and has since transitioned into meaning extraordinarily great/wonderful.

The play begins with the birth of a child which, while perhaps the most joyous moment in a parent’s life, is a tragedy.  At birth, a newborn cries as it transitions from being one with everything in the womb to perceiving itself a finite being, apart and separate from that which is infinite. The transition gives rise to a sense of duality between it and the “other,” that which it is not. This duality causes much of the conflict and stress in our lives as we interact with others to realize basic needs of food, shelter, security, health and companionship.

In “Terrific” each of us assumes various roles. Roles include career, family, religion, social group identities, etc. We tend to take these roles seriously, take ourselves seriously and forget that these roles are simply roles in a play. We are oblivious of who we are before we are born and who are after we die. Before and after life, we are one with the infinite.

In taking our roles and ourselves seriously, we attribute meanings to our experiences (our reality) of events, actions and things. The meanings are based on the personal and collective stories of our past that our mind has simply created. We experience our reality not as it is what it is whatever it is but as our reactions to the meanings we attribute to our reality; thus, feeling sad, angry, elated, etc. This is karma. Karma often leads to tragedy (hurting ourselves or others) but is ultimately a farce for those in the audience viewing the play.

For example, consensual and mutually pleasurable sexual relations between the presiding monk of a Zen monastery and one of the monastery’s  female students may be perceived by some members of the monastery as sexually coercive behavior. The female student is perceived as subordinate to presiding monk and the monk is perceived as taking advantage of his position to gain sexual favors. Some members of the monastery may feel angry or betrayed in that the sexual affair is inconsistent with how they expect a senior monk to behave. They then call for the monk to resign. They are angry because they cannot perceive that the mutually pleasurable sexual relationship is, simply, two people enjoying themselves. Seeing someone getting angry at others who are enjoying themselves is absurdly funny.

That’s “Terrific.” The actors taking their roles seriously, making the play a tragedy; and to the gods who comprise the audience viewing it all, it’s a farce. We know the gods are watching as we’re told in Homer’s “Odyssey” of a deafening sound of laughter that comes from Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.

Ultimately, the play goes on forever, though each actor’s role ends at some point when they are written out of the script and transition to death. Once done, each actor joins all the gods in the audience and enjoys the farce on stage. As such, at the end of our roles, it’s always terrific.

Some enlightened actors realize that life is a play and that we are all gods with temporary roles. These actors, regardless of their various roles, have a good laugh as they make their way through life.